A UK government review into the modern workplace has recommended a range of measures intended to help low-paid workers employed by companies like Uber and Deliveroo. The Taylor review, led by former government policy chief Matthew Taylor, says individuals working full-time in the “gig economy” should have the right to sick leave and holiday pay, and that companies should have to prove workers can earn the minimum wage by signing up to their service.
If the government chooses to follow the review’s recommendations, it could have a big effect on the business practices of Silicon Valley companies. In the UK and elsewhere, companies like Uber don’t class their workers as employees, but instead refer to them as “independent contractors.” This means they don’t have the same rights as regular employees, but neither are they bound to working set hours.
Critics have noted, though, that these individuals are often full-time employees in all but name, working regular hours without the associated benefits. The Taylor review suggests that such workers should be reclassified as “dependent contractors” and given similar rights to regular employees. It also recommends shutting a loophole in UK labor law known as the “Swedish derogation,” which allows companies to pay temporary staff less than full-time employees doing the same job.
Employment in the UK is currently at a record high, but real wages are falling and currently stand below where they were before the financial crash of 2007 and 2008. The Taylor review notes that although employment is booming, many new jobs created in the UK have been of poor quality. “There are too many people at work who are treated like cogs in a machine rather than being human beings, and there are too many people who don't see a route from their current job to progress and earn more and do better,” Matthew Taylor, the report’s author, told BBC News.
But the review has also been criticized for not going far enough, and failing to recommend concrete legislative changes. Tim Roache, head of the general trade union GMB, described the report as a “disappointing missed opportunity,” while Len McCluskey, head of the UK’s biggest union, Unite, said it had “spectacularly failed [to tackle] the scourge of insecure working in this country.” Thompsons Solicitors, a law firm that specializes in workers’ rights, called the report “feeble”.
For example, the review is not recommending that the government bans “zero-hour contracts” — a controversial form of employment that does not entitle the worker to a minimum number of working hours. The review also warns against introducing new national legislation to protect the rights of those working for platform apps like Uber, and instead suggests that the government relies on “responsible corporate governance.” Critics say this means that the enforcement of labor rights will remain in the hands of companies that have so far proven uninterested in the task.